Just days before the one-year anniversary of his death, the family of Ezell Ford, an unarmed, mentally ill black man shot and killed by LAPD officers, gathered for a memorial service Saturday afternoon.
Family and friends met at the Inglewood Park Cemetery Grandview Mausoleum, where Ford was laid to rest last year, and released a box of butterflies in memory of the 25-year-old.
Ford was shot and killed on Aug. 11, 2014 near 65th Street and Broadway. Police said officers approached Ford for acting suspiciously, and he was shot when he lunged at one officer and tried to grab the other’s weapon.
His family said at the memorial service that Ford’s death has changed the way they view law enforcement.
"Before, I was what they call a law-abiding citizen, I always say 'Call the Police,'" said Mahalia Clark, Ford's great aunt. "Now, I’ll think again before I say 'Call the police.' Someone has to be dying before I say that. Because that's how much faith I have in the police department."
Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and the department's independent watchdog, Inspector General Alex Bustamante, concluded that the officers involved in Ford’s death were justified in their actions.
However, the Los Angeles Police Commission in June rejected Beck's finding and ruled that one officer, Sharlton Wampler, violated department policy. The commision concluded that Wampler's partner, Antonio Villegas, was justified in shooting Ford to protect Wampler.
In March, Ford's family filed a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit alleging that he was shot in the back while lying on the ground, and in July, a federal judge ruled that Beck must answer questions from the family's attorney about Ford's death. The deposition is expected to be held this month.
The family said they hope Beck will make a decision about whether either of the two officers involved will face disciplinary action before the official one-year anniversary of Ford’s death.
"That’s my prayer every day, that I can work toward forgiveness as a part of healing," said Ford’s mother, Tritobia Ford. "But it's very hard when there has been nothing done, no action. I think when action is taken, then it will help me to heal. It will be easier."